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How to Find the Best Handbag for You

August 28, 2023

Our temperatures seem to be all over the place lately, and perhaps that is indeed the best indicator that fall is on the way. Yes, cool autumn days will arrive eventually. And when they do I love to have my fall handbag (or two!) ready to carry. So today I’m sharing some tips to help us find the best handbag for each of us individually. And I’ve rounded up some absolutely gorgeous handbags at a full range of prices for you to check out.

8 Tips to Help You Find the Best Handbag for You this Fall

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Before We Start…(a matter of courtesy)

In this fairly recent YouTube video about handbags for spring and summer, I mentioned that handbag selection is somewhat a personal process. Some women love designer handbags, while others prefer to put their money elsewhere and opt for more economical bags. I tend to be somewhere in the middle, shopping for high quality bags I can carry for multiple years, but not necessarily iconic designer bags.

But I really prefer not to talk about prices so much here at Dressed for My Day. I’ve never claimed to be a good bargain hunter, but I do like to watch for sales or accumulate loyalty points at my favorite stores with which to make my purchases. And while I can only link you to a limited selection of stores to shop, you should always feel free to look for the items I show or similar ones at second hand sources when possible.

That said, I feel like budgets for clothing, accessories and anything else in our lives really is a personal matter. So I try to give a little guidance regarding style and then provide lots of options in a full range of price points and from various sources. And of course some blog posts feature higher priced options, while others share more economically priced selections. But I do work really hard to provide a variety.

In that spirit, please help me keep the comments section free of criticism about prices. Not only do I not like feeling shamed for my own choices, I don’t want other readers to feel criticized for purchases they may make either. Instead let’s focus on the tips I’m providing today as well as the huge selection of bags I have for you at the end of the post.

Now let’s move on to those tips to help you find the best handbag for you.

Tip 1 – Consider your frame when choosing a handbag.

Regardless of trends, it’s optimal for your shoulder bag or handbag to look proportionate to your body frame.

What to wear to a Funeral or Memorial Service
similar blouse // navy blazer (more economical option) // coordinating navy pants (more economical option) // block heel pumps (use code KAYHEELS for $40 off your first pair of Ally heels) (more economical option and lower heel option) // shoulder bag (different color) // necklace // similar earrings

Here’s a handy chart to help you make these considerations:

  • If you are over 5’7″ you can carry a…medium or large bag.
  • If you are under 5’3″ you can carry a…medium or small bag.
  • If you are 5’3″ to 5’7″ you may want to stick with a medium bag.
No Fail Summer Date Outfit Formula
 faux leather crossbody // denim jacket

Of course these are not rules, just meant to be helpful guidelines. If you want to carry a bag that is a little smaller or larger than your frame, you may just need to make other adjustments in your outfit to accommodate your choice. For instance, you could wear higher heels or a tonal outfit to accommodate a larger bag choice.

Tip 2 – Know what is in style in handbags.

To make the best decisions on new purchases, you’ll want to be abreast of the latest, most up-to-date styles. You don’t have to participate in any trends that don’t appeal to you, but it’s fun to know what is in vogue.

brown suede clutch (similar, same brand)
wide leg crop jeans // camp shirt // blazer old – not available (similar option and in plus sizes) // block heel pumps (more economical option) // necklace // earrings not available – similar option // brown suede clutch (similar, same brand) // bracelet

For instance, this year clutches are really on trend. These classic bags are not always practical to carry. But if you’re looking for a bag for a special occasion, you might want to opt for a pretty clutch instead of your usual crossbody this time.

What else is trending this year? I’m seeing a lot of crescent moon shaped hobos like this Fossil, this alternative from Walmart and this croissant hobo from Rebecca Minkoff. Those have a stylishly casual vibe and promise lots of room for your belongings generally.

We’re also seeing a return to top handles. A top handle satchel is a great way to elevate an outfit. They’re so ladylike.

Impactful but Tasteful Jewelry
black leather beltmules (also available in cognac brown) and handbag // gold link bracelet and stud earrings // structured but modern blazer

And we’re seeing handbags in the colors of the season, too. For really trending colors, look to bold green, saffron yellow, deep reds or even pretty teals and blues. I love this deep lagoon leather hobo from Talbots. Of course other styles are still in vogue, too. In fact, I’m seeing all kinds of handbags to choose from this fall and winter. It’s just good to be in the know.

Tip 3 – But let your personal style trump the trends.

Don’t sacrifice your personal style just to carry a trendy bag. That’s how we make regrettable purchases. Instead, lean into your personal style. For instance, metallics continue to trend this fall and winter, too. I think a metallic bag like this Hobo bag is so fun. But if metallic doesn’t really resonate with your personal style, stay away from the trending gold, silver and gunmetal bags and opt for something more classic instead.

Think about Jeans
straight leg ankle jeans in faded black (Size Up) // short sleeve wool & alpaca blend sweater (TTS) // red tote // earrings // leather mules (TTS) (wearing with these half socks)

I purchased this red tote in the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale because I was looking for a red bag. But while red bags are definitely trending, I’ll be able to carry this bag for years since I have a lot of red in my wardrobe anyhow. So just make sure you let your personal style trump the trends.

Tip 4 – Check the bag for functionality.

I do most of my shopping online, so I have to really do a little digging on the store’s website in order to check for functionality. But it’s so worth it to put in the effort and time so that you don’t end up with a bag that doesn’t really work for you.

Crossbody Bag
crossbody // denim jacket as seen in this post

Most retail websites provide plenty of details about the size of the bag as well as pockets, zip enclosures, snaps, magnetic closures and more. Know what features are “must haves” for you and which ones you’ll fudge on a little. But don’t order a bag that lacks the features you need for your daily life.

Jacket and Heels
wide leg, full length jeans // similar tee // similar blazer (more economical) // satchel // sandals // necklace

I always look for bags with:

  • pockets for eyeglasses and sunglasses
  • at least one internal zipper enclosure
  • detachable straps if I want to convert it
I'm packing this crossbody in my "personal item" bag and then using it as I explore London.
black cropped utility pants (on sale here!) (more economical option) // tank and here and here // shirt // Naot Whetu water resistant sandals // crossbody // earrings // sunglasses

Those are essentials for me. But I also appreciate a bag that completely closes, especially for travel. That’s why the Hobo crossbody (and here) worked so well for me on my recent trip to London.

Tip 5 – Make sure the bag is comfortable to carry.

Not only should your bag be functional, but it should be comfortable to carry or wear. I find that I tend to fill bags to their capacity, so I no longer opt for totes very often. I tend to fill them too full and they become heavy and cumbersome.

Wear a Little Black
handbag // See the original post for details.

And while I love satchels, I like to make sure that I can add a strap for easy carrying if needed. In fact, the Coach Rogue bag above comes with three sets of straps.

Tip 6 – Consider where the bag will rest when you carry it.

Not only do we need to consider our frame and how the bag coordinates with it, but we are wise to think about where the bag will rest on our bodies when in use. A bag can add visual weight or bulk to your appearance, so choose wisely.

chambray shirt
cargo pants // chambray shirt (another option) // similar mules // similar sunglasses // watch (use code KAYHRMS for 15% off) // earrings // shoulder bag

For instance, if you are larger in the chest, you may not want to wear a shoulder bag that fits you where this shoulder bag above is on me. But if you are hippier, like I am, this might be a good place to carry your bag.

Stretch Your Wardrobe with Multi-Season Selections
floral print skirt // shirt // belt (similar belt in more sizes) // crossbody bag // suede block heel pumps // Parker chain bracelet // Tatum necklace // compass coin necklace // Taner hoops

Of course a small profile crossbody bag like this versatile Hudson from Kate Spade is not going to add a lot of visual weight anyhow. But if you’ve opted for a more medium size or large bag, you’ll definitely want to consider where it will hit you as you carry it.

Tip 7 – Select a neutral bag first…

I do think that it’s wise to make a good, versatile neutral colored bag your first purchase. This is a bag you can carry with so many different outfits.

Wear Later
wide leg crop jeans // camp shirt // blazer old – not available (similar option and in plus sizes) // block heel pumps (more economical option) // necklace // earrings not available – similar option // crossbody // bangle

This Kate Spade Hudson medium convertible crossbody has turned out to be such a good purchase. Cost per wear the price goes down on it almost daily for me. Plus, I can use this bag during all four seasons.

black ribbed tee (also in white & navy – size up) // cargo pants // mules (also in cognac) (more economical option) // similar black belt // earrings // similar sunglasses or here // shoulder bag

But a black bag can be a great option, too. And I do carry these year round as well.

Tip 8 – …then add a colored bag or one with detailing to your collection.

Don’t be afraid of wearing a pop of color with your bag. It’s a great way to add interest to your outfit. I do find that I have to work at wearing my colorful bags more than I do the neutral ones, however. So if you doubt you’ll really use it, you don’t have to have a colored bag.

Wool Sweater // Performance Jacket // Jeans // Tote // Shoes // Earrings // Bracelet

So let’s get to those new fall handbags I scouted out for you. I think many of these are absolutely swoon-worthy! And if you’re not one to spend a lot on a bag, use the pricier ones for inspiration. But I’ve got lots of great bags at a full range of prices here. Enjoy!

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Blessed for My Day

When we prioritize joy, we minimize complaints, criticism, anger and fear. Those hard and heavy emotions cannot survive long in the light of joy. But how do we invite more joy into our lives, especially if we are indeed working through some hard things?

I find that joy is a daily, sometimes hourly, choice. I choose joy when I turn on praise music rather than drowning my sorrows in woeful country tunes. I choose joy when I pause to thank God for His new mercies, His enduring faithfulness and His overwhelming grace and love. I choose joy when I reach out to serve someone else rather than wondering why no one is serving or helping me. And I choose joy when I end my day by recounting how God was faithful throughout the day. How will you choose joy today?

Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord,
Let’s shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let’s come before His presence with a song of thanksgiving,
Let’s shout joyfully to Him in songs with instruments.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods… ~ Psalm 95:1-3

xoxo, Kay
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42 thoughts on “How to Find the Best Handbag for You

  1. I would like to see photos of and hear about areas you visited in England.
    About handbags, I am having trouble finding handbags with silver toned hardware. Everything is gold! However, I like to wear silver jewelry and I feel like the hardware on a purse or shoes should match the jewelry a person is wearing. Any suggestions for handbag companies that use silver hardware?

    1. Hi Makayla, I definitely see a lot of handbags with all sorts of hardware, including gold, silver, gunmetal and even black. And most of the ones in my shopping widget come in other colors and other metal tones, too. So always click through for additional options. For instance, I love this black shoulder bag from Aimee Kestenberg, and it has silver hardware while the other colors have gold. But the white has silver, too. And white is very in for fall and winter 2023.

  2. Hi Kay. I would love to know if you took mini size toiletries on trip or did you transfer products into travel containers?

  3. So many questions! (We’re leaving in three weeks for a ten day trip, all in London!). I would love to know if you wore all your clothes and which ones you might have done without or substituted for others? What about shoes? I love what worked/what didn’t work videos!! How was it going carry on only? Did you wish you had brought more? I went carry on only last August for a 2 week trip (river cruise) but 10 days in a city in the fall is somewhat daunting!

  4. I loved that you mentioned in your intro today about looking for second hand items as a way of inexpensively adding to your wardrobe options. You provide so much great information on how to put together attractive outfits, as well as what’s trending for each season, for our use in making better choices when we shop. Before I head out to some of my favorite second hand shops, I read or watch your content to help me select items that I am excited to use for the next season. I look for brands that you feature, and often find them gently used and sometimes never used still with tags on them, but at a fraction of the original cost. This works for me because I regularly peruse these places. I really appreciate your research and lovely approach to looking stylish and beautiful as we grow older. Thank you!

  5. I’m so happy to know that your trip was wonderful! I’d love to hear what you took that you ended up not using/wearing (or just took up too much real estate in your bag) , and the pieces that were most often used and you’re glad you packed. I’m a carry-on only gal, too, so am always on the lookout for space saving tips. Love todays Blessed for My Day about JOY! 🙂

  6. Did you see many travelers using sling bags–the bags that hang on one strap across the front chest and sit higher on the body than a crossbody would. I see them often advertised as unisex bags for travel. It seems like they would be hard to get into. Wondering what you think about these.

  7. Handbags have never been something I thought much about except for special occasions. Over the last year I’ve made a concerted effort to find some more stylish choices than my utility crossbody bag but I’ve returned more than I’ve kept. I almost never changed my handbag (for up to 6 months at a time!) and I still haven’t really mastered it. I like my hands free and easy access so outside pockets are a must. And I can identify with your comments about totes – I just over fill them. I like structured bags – but not too structured so that they are hard. Thank you for all the choices you showed. Any hints for making the bag change out less painful would be appreciated :-).

    1. Hi Jenn,
      I’ve always been a change-my-handbag person! What works best for me is to keep most of the small items/necessities contained in one or two small zip pouches. This way it’s easy to move these pouches, my wallet, tissue pack, a pen & small notepad (and phone, of course) quickly from one purse to another. If I’m switching from a regular size handbag to a smaller clutch or wristlet, I just pull out the minimum of necessities. Once you do this for a while, it becomes second nature and takes just a minute or two.

    2. Jenn,
      I wanted to share what I do. I love changing out my purse to go with outfit. I have a wallet, And a clear bag (kinda like a make up bag) that I put everything else in and my third thing is my key ring. So when I change out my purse I move only three things! Plus I like that it keeps my purse clean as everything is enclosed. This probably doesn’t work for everyone but I wanted to share at least one idea.

  8. Kay – I love your wonderful spirit and sense (fashion and life)! Thank you for sharing your insights.

    I used to only buy cheap ($25-30) purses and only own one at a time. Then I started investing more with Brighton bags – I love them and their guarantee. I do have a fun Patricia Nash that a friend gave me. It is beautiful, but I wish it included a connected key ring like my Brighton’s do. Now I have a colorful selection to coordinate with all my clothing choices.


  9. The print Halogen skirt in the warm espresso print looks great on you. Can you please tell me whether the colors in your photograph or the colors on the Nordstom website are more accurate? I am a Spring in coloring, and the colors in your photograph look like colors I could wear, but the colors on the Nordstom website look a little too dusty or muted for my coloring. Thanks in advance!

  10. I love your daily devotionals. You are so right about serving others vs. having a pitty party about why no one is serving “me”; in order to find joy in our day.

  11. Kay, Glad you had a wonderful and safe trip! I love London and would love to go back! Thanks
    for all the great tips today and the nice selection of handbags. I know blue is a color for Fall and have been seeing lots of handbags in blue. Do you think they will go out of style quickly? I saw a navy and med blue Michael Kors that I thought was attractive.

    1. Hi Evelyn, I think colored bags in general do not go out of style. You can always add a pop of most any color really. And if you purchase a bag with fairly clean lines and substantial hardware it will hold it’s value. If you enjoy blue, that is a great color to add in a handbag.

  12. Was it awkward to travel with strangers? It was probably easier since they were Christians? It looked like an amazing trip! You went to places I didn’t go to when I was there so I enjoyed the pictures-especially the ones about C.S. Lewis!

  13. Thanks for the tips – the advice on the right bag size for my frame was especially helpful. I would also welcome your view as to materials and sustainability.
    Handbags can be leather, fake (or vegan) leather (usually polyurethane), canvas, other textiles. One thing I can never figure out is why polyurethane bags are priced similarly to leather ones that meet the high standards of the leather council. It’s confusing. I also think a discussion of bags for different purposes would be useful. For example, women in professional jobs almost invariably carry leather handbags or briefcases. Black and navy blue are typically the neutrals here, I think. But for my daily life, I am much more likely to carry a tote of some sort.
    And I could really use advice on what to do with a handbag when dining out. If I cannot hang the bag on my chair, should it be placed on the floor, held in my lap, or placed on the table (if small enough? Thanks!

    1. I did run into one situation recently where I struggled to know what to do with my handbag. There was no place to put it in my seat (I was in a chair, not a booth), and there certainly wasn’t room at the table. So I just placed it in my lap under my napkin. Within minutes I’d forgotten it was there and enjoyed my dinner. If it’s possible, I generally put my clutch bag beside me in a booth or behind me in a roomy chair with a back. Otherwise I think holding it in your lap is the best option. I don’t like putting my bags on the floor.

      1. Thank you. I don’t like putting a nice bag on the floor either. It never occurred to me to try to fit my bag behind me on my chair. I will try that. I agree that booths are the easiest, but lately I’ve found restaurants with curved seat backs. I’m kind of clumsy sometimes but will aim to ‘sit like a lady with my bag in my lap.

      2. There is a product called the Bagnet which has a super strong magnet inside of leather, it will hold your purse on a bathroom door with a broken hook or a table post which is typically metal. Love the idea but wish they were prettier.

  14. Did you know that you can rehab leather purses? I’ve bought a few Coach bags and washed them, then treated them with leather conditioner. I’ve most recently bought a small Coach satchel crossbody at a garage sale for $10. In truth, I hate purses! But what can you do, I believe your advice is spot on. You really have to know what you want in a purse before you spend the money.

    1. I agree with you Caron, the vintage Coach purses that my daughter has found and reconditioned are just as beautiful as the ones I have from the 1980s and 1990s. The materials used back then (leather) seem of much better quality than the current man-made materials. They are generally available at thrift stores for under $30.

  15. I noticed you stayed OUTSIDE of London and traveled into the city or to other places. Did you feel that worked well? What modes of transportation did you use?

  16. Hi! I attend fitness classes and want to have a “gym purse” to carry keys, wallet, and phone with a closure. It should be able to sit on floors. I don’t want to take my good purses! Any suggestions?

    1. Good question, Nancy. I’d get a really inexpensive bag that has the features you want. This is one occasion where cleanliness and convenience outweighs style. The gym I go to has disinfectant wipe dispensers all over the place, so it’s easy to do a quick swish over the equipment when I’m done. A bag that you can wash or wipe clean, and that you keep only for the gym or other “messy” places, is practical. And there are probably lots of options that look pretty, too.

  17. Kaye,
    What a fun conversation! I do love a great bag and I have several that I carry each season. I also enjoy adding to my collection.
    My personal favorites trend to be east west bags instead of the deep north south design. I have a couple of higher quality leather bags which tend to be both neutral colors and classic designs. The more trendy, colorful bags are generals purchased at a lower price point. But I have been delighted with the quality of the handbags from big box stores and everyone’s favorite on-line shopping giant.
    The perfect red bag is on my shopping list this season and a new pair of red shoes.

    Thank you again for your inspiration,

  18. Hi Kay, “well said” 👏🏻You have such a wonderful polite and kind way of expressing a point of view. No one should ever feel shamed for their choices unless it is hurting someone . I personally don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes , but I don’t mind and like one of your other lovely ladies I am also a Fan of Pre-Loved clothes . But I do love your Blog and your fashion advice and hair and beauty tips for us ladies and thats the purpose of your Blog, to help and inspire us to ‘Dress For Our Day’ and you make it fun too. I loved your Daily Scripture today about finding Joy , so important in this world of ours . I loved the handbags they were all gorgeous! Ive always loved bags and the advice you gave Spot On! ❤️ Thank you for all your hard work Kay Xx

  19. Kay, so glad you enjoyed your trip to London! Today you are a stylist after my own heart! I love purses, always have. I have to share a story about my son who would not be happy with me if he knew, haha! He found a small red handbag at a rummage sale when he was 2 years old, and he used it for his little hot wheel cars. To this day, I smile every time I see a red handbag 👜🥰
    I know you talked about this before in your posts, Kay, but any “breaking news” on genius ideas for storing “several” handbags effectively? Totes are easy but in a smaller size home, I struggle with finding closet space for the others so they don’t get ruined.

    1. Helena I got some hooks really reasonable from Amazon and I cleared a small space in my wardrobe to hang my handbags up . I don’t have a lot but they are all good quality and some of them were gifts , they all deserve to be loved and looked after ❤️

  20. Great tips and a really thorough selection of handbags! Don’t let anyone shame you on your choice of handbags! If one chooses to invest more in handbags (me) it’s their choice!

  21. Thanks so much for this post, Kay. I have spent hours and hours pouring over online reviews and product information at multiple retailers attempting to make a decision for a new fall bag. One problem is that I have high-grade leather taste and a newly-retired-single-gal vegan leather budget. Ha! You might have found my perfect answer with that Kohl’s Lauren Conrad bag. Think I will give it a try.

    Also… I am in the market for a denim jacket (gave my daughter my Lucky brand jacket recently), so I clicked through to the Levi’s jacket you linked at Kohl’s. You probably already know this, but they have a pic of you wearing their jacket in the online description. Looks great! Think I will need this, too. After all, I have Kohl’s bucks, and there is a Labor Day sale…. *grin*